American import Jalen Hudson fired six of TNT's last 10 points as the Tropang Giga survived a last-minute fightback from Phoenix Super LPG for a 123-119 victory and rewarded Jojo Lastimosa with a win in his coaching debut Wednesday night in the 2022-23 PBA Governors' Cup.
Hudson, a standout from the University of Florida Gators, registered a double-double of 34 points and 10 rebounds in his first game in the PBA.
Phoenix reinforcement Du'Vaughn Maxwell pushed his team to within 108-111 midway in the final period but Hudson stepped up and took over from there. Roger Pogoy and Kelly Williams each added a two-point basket, while Hudson buried a three-pointer and later, added three more foul shots to cap a 10-4 exchange to give TNT a 121-112 lead, time down to 1:16 in the game.
The Fuel Masters managed to close in at 116-121 on a pair of free throws by RR Garcia and a two-pointer by Tyler Tio, but Jayson Castro made his own foul shots later, which practically sealed the outcome.
RJ Jazul then scored a three-pointer with four seconds to go, but by then, it was too late for Phoenix. The loss spoiled the debut of Jamike Jarin as the team's interim head coach, replacing Topex Robinson.
Lastimosa entered the game with a defensive mindset from the get-go. But somehow, the Tropang Giga failed to execute their game plan, and instead, engaged the Fuel Masters in a shootout.
"Definitely we scored more than how I expect them to score," Lastimosa said during the post-game presser. "But again we have to look at the last conference where our defense suffered, and then it happened (again) in the first half because we gave up 60 points."
"But we played much better defense in the second half and it wasn't a real defensive game but it was us making big shots than the other side," he added.
TNT trailed by 12 points midway in the opening period, before slowly chipping off Phoenix's double-digit lead when Hudson, Pogoy and Calvin Oftana began hitting their shots.
"Jalen hit some big shots," said Lastimosa, who admitted he is still adjusting to his new coaching role since he is also serving as TNT's manager at the same time. "But I'm so happy also because Calvin was able to also get his confidence back."
Pogoy finished with 21 points, while Oftana added 17 and seven boards for TNT.
Newly acquired big man Justin Chua added 10 for TNT. He was part of the multi-team, multi-player trade that was approved days before the start of the new conference.
Maxwell led Phoenix with 21 points and 19 rebounds, but committed nine turnovers in his second tour of duty with the team.
Jason Perkins had 20 while Garcia added 18 and eight assists.